The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 11
Concerning the game which we should call "Locusts," and the deeper
significance of its acts. The solicitous warning of one passing inwards and the
complication occasioned by his ill- chosen words. Concerning that victory already
dimly foreshadowed.
VENERATED SIRE,--This barbarian game of agile grass-hoppers is not
conducted in the best spirit of a really well-balanced display, and although the
one now inscribing his emotions certainly achieved a wide popularity, and wore
his fig leaves with becoming modesty, he has never since been quite free from
an overhanging doubt that the compliments and genial remarks with which he
was assailed owed their modulation to an unsubstantial atmosphere of two-
edged significance which for a period enveloped all whom he approached; as in
the faces of maidens concealed behind fans when he passed, the down-drawn
lips and up-raised eyes of those of fuller maturity, the practice in most of his own
kind of turning aside, pressing their hands about their middle parts, and bending
forward into a swollen attitude devoid of grace, on the spur of a sudden
remembrance, and in the auspicious but undeniably embarrassing manner in
which all the unfledged ones of the village clustered about his retiring footsteps,
saluting him continually as one "James," upon whom had been conferred the
gratifying title of "Sunny." Thus may the outline of the combat be recounted.
From each opposing group eleven were chosen as a band, and we of our
company putting on a robe of distinctive green (while they elected to be regarded
as an assemblage of brown crickets), we presently came to a suitable spot where
the trial was to be decided. So far this person had reasonably assumed that at a
preconcerted signal the contest would begin, all rising into the air together,
uttering cries of menace, bounding unceasingly and in every way displaying the
dexterity of our proportions. Indeed, in the reasonableness of this expectation it
cannot be a matter for reproach to one of the green grass-hoppers--who need
not be further indicated--that he had already begun a well-simulated note of
challenge to those around clad in brown, and to leap upwards in a preparatory
essay, when the ever-alert Sir Philip took him affectionately by the arm, on the
plea that the seclusion of a neighbouring pavilion afforded a desirable shade.
Beyond that point it is difficult to convey an accurately grouped and fully spread-
out design of the encounter. In itself the scheme and intention of counterfeiting
the domestic life and rivalries of two opposing bands of insects was pleasantly
conceived, and might have been carried out with harmonious precision, but, after
the manner of these remote tribes, the original project had been overshadowed
and the purity of the imagination lost beneath a mass of inconsistent detail. To
this imperfection must it be laid that when at length this person was recalled from
the obscurity of the pagoda and the alluring society of a maiden of the village, to
whom he was endeavouring to expound the strategy of the game, and called
upon to engage actively in it, he courteously admitted to those who led him forth
that he had not the most shadowy-outlined idea of what was required of him.